Is it cost effective?

backyardbumSeptember 21, 2012

I have the space. I love growing plants. I need to add trees to the landscape, but is it really worth all the work and cost of spray to grow your own fruit trees?

I am disapointed that I was unable to get pears or apples to can this year. I bought peaches and it seemed the finished product was a little expensive. On the other hand I don't know how on earth I would be able to process all the fruit from a tree. (Not to mention I would like to plant about 5 types of trees and some need more than one tree)

Once again is it going to be more expensive to grow the trees or buy the fruit I want to process?

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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

My opinion is that it is not a matter of cost but rather quality and diversity of produce. Part of the fun is to be able to have different varieties than one can purchase in the local market. My first taste of a Rubinette apple, for instance, was priceless.

I am posting a link to a thread of similar topic:

Here is a link that might be useful: Are fruit trees worth the hassle?

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 11:56PM
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Check out "Unusual Fruits for the Home Garden" by Lee Reich. I enjoyed learning about different fruit trees, and it emphasizes easy plants that require much less fussing, pruning, and spraying than traditional apples and pears, etc.
If you have space, like to garden, and want to put on trees anyway, they're something to consider. If you're worried about preserving produce, you could always give away excess or donate it to the local food pantry.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 2:10AM
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The cost of spraying and fertilizing in some cases can be high. This is usually dude to poor planning, such as getting an apple variety that is suceptible to fungus, in a wet humid climate, and poor soils prior to planting.

Find out your soil composition, what minerals are high and missing, see if our soil wil benefit from peat or sand, or any addidtives A YEAR OR 2 BEFORE PLANTING. THis makes it so you can tweak the spots in which you plant, and alows everything to co-mingle and settle.

Also, if you choose and plan accordingly, sprays and the like can be cut in half, or possibly eliminated. There are a few "new" ways of gardening which can help or again, eliminate the need for sprays. Check out "gaias garden" by toby hemminway, or anything by bill mollison. It may give you a few ideas!

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 7:54AM
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alan haigh

I have a customer who is the son of the CEO of a major U.S. corporation and is himself the owner of an overseas pizza chain. He's an MBA who takes pride in his business acumen.

Before he paid me my very high price for installing an instant orchard of bearing age trees he put all the expenses on a spread sheet and analyzed the cost to benefit and according to his analysis, including care of trees, he expected to make a profit on the investment by the time he sells the home in about 10 years. However this profit was based on the increased value of his very expensive home by virtue of including a beautiful orchard.

You will never recover your investment in time and money on the value of your fruit alone unless you live somewhere out west where the growing is easy, or you stick to the easiest fruit to grow as suggested.

Mass production may not produce the best agricultural product but it certainly produces the cheapest one.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 8:18AM
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There are a lot of zero or near zero care fruits, even when predators are included. For example if I pick my chestnuts when the burrs are just opening the squirrels will get nothing. I have to pick within a window of 2 or 3 days, but beyond that, no care. No spray, no pruning, no watering even in extreme drought. Mulberries, currants and cane fruits also require minimal care. Grapes, hardy kiwis and pears require little care here.

If you want to branch into other edible perennials, asparagus is almost care-free. You also vastly reduce the expected care if you plant in full sun, and otherwise manage to grow strong trees. You strongly reduce the predators if you can place an electric fence around the orchard. Lots of care can be avoided with good planning.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 10:55AM
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Save money and grow your own? I think if you put a price on your time/labor and then factor in the cost of pesticides, it will not be a savings.

A good example is a local orchard that sells pick your own
windfalls for $5/bushel. I cannot raise apples for that price. Windfalls are great for sauce/cooking. Not bad to eat fresh either if I cut out the bruise.

Pesticides. Assuming you spray then it depends on how many
trees you have. I buy Imidan in 4 lb lots. I cannot find
it any other way. This quantity lasts a long time and is
quite an investment. I am always glad to sell a pound to
friends to keep my stock fresh and used up in a timely manner.

I would consider growing fruit as a homeowner not for profit but for fun, nostalgia if you had parents or grandparents who had fruit trees, or perhaps if you want a
cetain variety that is not possible to find in your area
(antique types or regional varieties).

Quality is a factor too. Unfortunately most home growers
do not prune and usually do not monitor/control insect and
diseases well. When I tell someone buying a fruit tree from me retail how often most professional orchardists spray to get perfect fruit, they are really surprised. Not that I am an advocate of harsh chemical sprays for home use. Growing apples in bags works great for the home
situation if you don't have more than a few trees.

I just want the average person to realize what to expect
and just how much work it is. I consider it fun and exciting to watch the fruit grow. The reward of tasty home grown fruit is really something and quite an achievement of skill, luck and perseverance.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 11:11AM
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Backyardbum, where are you located? Where you live has a lot to do with the cost of keeping an orchard. Are you a person that is willing to do your homework up front? We see time and again people that have done little in the way of study or preparation - then find themselves in all sorts of trouble. There are so many good texts out there with easy to follow steps, that it's a shame how many people fail to find an accountable resource and instead choose to wing it. The amount of success that you have will be proportional to limiting costs - as replanting and dealing with problems will not be cost effective.

Here are two reliable and accountable resources for you to follow:
* Dave Wilson Nursery
* Four Winds Growers

These resources are accountable because if they gave out bad advice it would impact their overall sales. Someone on a message board or a University text has little to no accountability.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 11:44AM
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Thank you. I have toyed with the idea for awhile. My family tells me all the time it will be cheaper to buy the fruit. But it will be lots more fun to work with the orchard. So here goes.

I am in North West Arkansas. (zone 6 a or b depending on what map you look at) I have been in contact with the extention office about the Types and varities of fruit. I am sending a soil sample soon. (For both the vegtable garden and the tree area.)
Thank you for all the resources, I will spend the winter soaking up as much information as possible. I am sure I will be asking lots of questions. (My real fear is trying to prune the trees.)
Any additional resources will be greatly appreciated. Any tips for keeping this within reason would be appreciated also.
Thanks for the support.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 9:49PM
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I can state that I got more out of my vegetable garden than the money I put in. The labor is another matter but gardening is 50% of my exercise and 100% of my therapy. I do not pay for fertilizer, I do not pay for compost, and seeds and water are cheap. I have, very important, thrown out a lot of veggies that do not grow well here, and only keep the winners. If life gives you kale, make kaleade.

Not so with the fruits, but if I were to advance carefully, as you are doing, and if I had know about Gardenweb back then, that would have saved me a lot of grief. It is important to have some fruits at all times, and to start with the easy ones and advance gradually. Still, life may give you persimmons and haskaps, instead of those you have in mind now. Make persimmade.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 10:13PM
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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

Raspberries and blackberries are certainly cost effective. The plants are cheap, easy to propagate, productive, and easy to care for. I don't spray mine at all. I guess store bought are so expensive because they are tedious to harvest and don't ship well. Furthermore, I've never had a good blackberry from the store, they're always picked too early. Not surprising, because they are vey delicate when ripe.

Pawpaws aren't easily available at all. Good ones are about $10/pound by mail-order. They can be tricky to get started, but are a breeze to grow after that, and boy are they good! No spraying at all.

Persimmons are easy as well, and pretty expensive at the store. I got 35 fruit from my tree last year, which would cost me over $50 at the store. Not bad for a $25 tree. The fruit are pristine without spraying.

For me the payback on blueberries is longer, because I had to build a framework and net to keep out the birds. That cost about $100 in materials. But, I got over 20 pints this year (maybe 15 pounds?) and it looks like I'll get more next year. Blueberries are at least a couple dollars a pint here, so I could easily grow $40 to $50 worth each year. The framework will last decades, hopefully the net will last 5 years, since it's only on during harvest. That would be about $10 or $12 per year. No spraying. I spread some hollytone and sulfur each spring, but that amounts to less than $10/year for 6 plants. So, maybe $20/year to get at least double that value in fruit, a pretty good deal.

Asian pears have a pretty fast payback. They cost about $1.50/fruit in the store here. No spraying on them either. Some of the fruit wind up with some dimples on them (codling moth?), but there is no worm or damage inside that I can see.

Hardy kiwi will be the longest payback for me, because I built a big fancy arbor for them, but the arbor should outlast me, and I'll get pounds of fruit each year. You can make a simple trellis system for a reasonable amount. No spraying, and a few bucks of fertilizer per year.


    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 10:31PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

One other benefit of growing your own food is that you don't pay any income tax on the food you grow.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 12:04AM
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I am in similar situation, except my family is encouraging me (I think they may be looking forward to free veggies & fruit soon, lol).

I am starting from scratch; there is nothing growing on the property that I just acquired (except for few evergreens close to the house).

For me it is going to be lots of learning (I have zero experience growing fruit trees).
I have grown some veggies, and raspberries & 1 red currant.
Anything else is new to me.

I won't be able to plant any trees before this winter, since I have no clue. Not even how to site (is that the right word?) the trees.

I am in zone similar to yours (on north outskirts of Toronto, Ont; Canada).
I am reading everything I can on this forum.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 9:28AM
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No, spraying is not cost effective. When you take all the environmental costs: pollinator health, health of the water table, and the cost to future generations, using any synthetic toxin in the environment is a bad idea.

However, to echo what other posters have said here, the importance of choosing the right species/varieties for your climate is paramount: spraying should not be seen as necessary. Imagine the cost benefit picture of growing fruiting plants that take only as much care as traditional landscape plants that would be grown in their place anyway. The fruit is just an added, and very valuable bonus. This is my approach, and while it present certain challenges and failures, it is very satisfying...

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 12:37PM
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alan haigh

"No, spraying is not cost effective. When you take all the environmental costs: pollinator health, health of the water table, and the cost to future generations, using any synthetic toxin in the environment is a bad idea."

But it's OK to use toxins to run your car, make all of our consumer goods and every other thing involved in modern life.

Synthetic toxins are not necessarily worse than natural toxins and the above screed seems more faith based than logical to me. It is highly debatable that the earths population can be fed without the benefit of modern chemistry in our agriculture. Right now organic food is much too expensive for most of the planets human occupants.

When are people going to start looking at the big picture instead of focusing on agriculture as the key feature of environmental degradation? Factories spew out a lot more synthetic toxins than farms. My car probably spews out more toxin than all the agriculturally derived poisons required of my diet.

I use synthetic pesticides on my land and it is teeming with healthy pollinators- I don't believe I will leave my land worse than when I found it- it will be more productive with a clean aquifer for the well water and richer soil for the fruit trees I planted which will long outlive me.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 6:23PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

harvestman, You brought to mind a topic that's been bugging me to death. If one could imagine most of the world's population actually eating food that did not come in some kind of disposable container, what a world that would be! I cringe when I buy veggies in plastic bags knowing that the bag will be around maybe for decades and the food gone long before. Think of all the natural resources and the toxic waste that would be prevented if most people actually utilized their yard for food.

I know this sounds crazy, but when I brought in my first carrots I thought how lovely it was that I personally got to wash the dirt off and they never touched plastic at all. Just simply saving the resources from packaging and shipping would really help the environment.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 7:15PM
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Don't quit your job to grow fruit in your home garden. However, since you would not be earning money at a job during those hours of the day you would spend in your orchard, I don't think you can factor in wages as an expense. With some items, like pears, you may be retired by the time they bear fruit! Also, you get free recreation, which is an immediate bonus. No gym membership fee needed!
My biggest expense has been the deer fencing, chicken wire, and other rabbit, bird, and deer protection. I must say that the strawberries have certainly produced many times what I paid for the plants. With many other items I am still waiting for the day! Enjoy your garden. Northwoodswis

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 1:12AM
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alan haigh

MH, yes, and having a vegetable garden and orchard certainly reduces trips to market for me. Food gardening is good and when insects or fungus become too difficult or even too labor intensive to control without them, certain synthetic toxins are good too. I do think that poisons should be your last option.

This year I used a synthetic pesticide in my vegie garden for the first time (in 40 years of vegetable gardening) because army worms were just too persistent for me to deal with organically. Also stinkbugs on my corn would not leave with any organic intervention I tried. I wasted $20 on a so called "organic stink bug killer" from seven springs-which burned the leaves of my kale. Triazide did the trick with a single application in both cases. The expense of it is a tiny fraction of ineffective organic alternatives.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 7:37AM
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I had stink bugs on my corn this year too, I think they were eating the tassels. Several bugs per ear. They never got inside the leaves of the ears and the ears pollinated as well as any at the farmers market, so I don't think they did much damage. My corn was growing at an organic community garden, so I couldn't spray anything if I'd wanted to. Also, I'm lazy.
Alexander3 has lots of good advice, ditto. My largest expenses have also been fencing out rabbits, but the chicken wire will last a long time. (I am lucky that I don't deal with deer, raccoons, or squirrels. Yet, anyway.)
Look at it as a hobby that you enjoy, and that produces tasty food. The return on investment has to be bigger than fishing, if you've bought a boat!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 10:09AM
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The truth is that you most likely will not know the total cost going in. There can be unforeseen expenditures in the end. You may have to spray, you may have bird problems, and you may have deer or rodent pressure. You may also have good and bad years. You won't be able to match the pride and joy of your finished product, knowing that you had complete control of the process and were able to harvest at the peak of flavor. If you do have to spray you will know that you applied it safely, and perhaps using a safer compound, and will have limited your exposure to more harmful chemicals.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 12:24PM
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The question that is more to the point is like the song says, "Do you want to dance?" You can watch others do it or get involved and experience it for yourself. Often for a backyard orchard insects and birds can be controled without major expense. Eating, canning or giving away your own fruit makes it all worthwhile. Enjoy it; feel the dirt crumble between your fingers; spend time looking at your trees; kill the bugs between your fingers. Tell your friends and neighbors about your trees, the mason bees you encouraged to hatch for pollination and all of the other joys of doing it yourself. Experiences such as these make life worth living!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 1:37PM
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Hi, I have to agree with Charlie not so boring! I started from scratch three years ago and now have fourteen trees. I'm over 60 but really enjoy the orchard so much. This year was my first big year for apples and peaches a few plums. Lots of raspberries. The rest of the fruit will start coming in next year the and the year after. Trust me, fourteen trees is a fine number for one person. Cost effective? Really doesn't matter, as I enjoy the journey. Mrs. G

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 5:11PM
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